We watch the rapidly flowing water of a river and admire its force. But do we pause to think about what the flowing river indicates?
It is a metaphor for the impermanence of life. The water is not stagnant, but keeps running all the time. In fact, Nature shows us the impermanence of life in many ways. We see clouds in the sky, which keep moving. Furthermore, they keep changing shape. We see a tree flower, bear fruit, and then observe the ripe fruits drop to the ground.
There are other examples one can give of the temporary nature of our earthly sojourn. We build huge houses only to find them crumbling sixty years down the line.
A Tamil poet said great buildings become ruins, turning the resting place for donkeys.
Man, too, must realise that the wealth or the status he enjoys in life is not going to last forever, said Malayaman, in a discourse. These may give joy while we possess them. But the loss of these possessions will be hard to bear.
The Tamil work, Naladiyar, gives an example to show us that we must not be fussy about anything.
A rich man rejects the food his wife offered as not being to his liking. But later, when he loses his wealth, he walks long distances to beg for a handful of gruel.
Another Tamil work says a rich man rides an elephant. A servant stands behind him, shielding him from the sun with an umbrella. Suddenly the rich man becomes poor. Gone are the elephant and the servant; he finds it difficult to walk, for he is unaccustomed to doing so.
It is not just our possessions that are lost easily. This body too is just a temporary shelter for the soul, and it too will perish one day. Our youth is like the arrow in a bow. It leaves us at the speed at which an arrow flies off a bow towards its target. In our case, the end is death.
Wealth flows away like the water of a river, and this human body is as lasting as letters written on water. If we realise this, we will contemplate on God, use what wealth we have to help others and leave the world happily when our time comes.